Pepsi: Soft Drink or Soft Selling the Severity of Racism

by hotcoco on April 21, 2017 - 1:13pm

The Kardashian-Jenner family has been under the entertainment media spotlight for over a decade. The members of the family always find a way to stay relevant whether it be by starring in their own reality television series, their high fashion modelling careers or their newest apps. While Kim Kardashian was the family member that sparked the initial fame, she received more than enough attention to be shared among all her family members. Through association with Kim Kardashian, Kendall Jenner was able to easily slide in to the modelling world. By the age of twenty-one, Kendall has modelled for Calvin Klein, Victoria’s Secret and Givenchy (Blalock). However, it is only a matter of time before celebrities find themselves in the middle of controversy, and Kendall Jenner is no different.

In early April, Pepsi released its newest advertisement starring the iconic Kendall Jenner. An advertisement that was supposed to drive sales ended up in the middle of a controversy and a social media firestorm. The three minute advertisement shows Kendall Jenner modelling in a blonde wig and dark lipstick but when a protest that looks a lot like a Black Lives Matter rally passes by, she is invited by one of the protesters to join the rally. She then removes her blonde wig to show her real hair and wipes off her lipstick. The end of the advertisement shows Kendall giving a police officer a can of Pepsi and the crowd erupts in applause, which makes it seem like the model solved the problem with a mere can of Pepsi.  Within twenty-four hours, Pepsi pulled the ad off air. 

This Pepsi advertisement trivializes the seriousness of the Black Lives Matter movement and protests in general that are especially relevant in today’s political climate. Pepsi’s actions are morally unethical under a teleological lens since the advertisement  results in viewers believing that there are very simple solutions to such large and in depth social issues. However, others may argue that Pepsi was simply trying to be a good corporate citizen by raising awareness. At the surface level, Pepsi did intend on raising awareness through this ad but the purpose of this advertisement was essentially to drive sales which means that Pepsi was simply using social issues to turn a profit, which is unethical under all frameworks because it came at the expense of trivializing other peoples problems. Another popular opinion is that Kendall Jenner should in fact be praised for being an activist for minority groups. People claim that there is no winning for white people because they will be criticized if they take no action and simple enjoy their privilege without using it to help others but then, they are also criticized for claiming to understand people’s experience with discrimination when they do choose to be activists. While it is important for white people to exercise their privilege to help those that are systemically oppressed, they need to place emphasis on listening to each individual experience, which is all minority groups typically ask for. Kendall Jennner  in this Pepsi ad can be seen as neutral under all frameworks because her actions are not openly malicious, she does not demonstrate any vices and the outcry from the public was the result of the idea behind the advertisement and not Kendall’s  actual physical acting. Overall, it is entirely Pepsi’s fault that such an advertisement was created in the first place.  


Black Lives Matter is an international activist movement that combats systemic racism towards black people (Salim 2). This movement came to light in response to violent crimes committed by police offers that resulted in numerous unarmed black people dying (Salim 2). A study brought to light the injustices that black people face on a daily basis, specifically the fact that black people are major contributors to building the great nation that is the United States, but are still treated unequally, even by law enforcers who’s duty is to protect all citizens (Adedoja and Troka 49). A study argues that in order for black people to live an equally fulfilling life as their white counterparts, they need to be given equal opportunity (Salim 5). This means the same resources, the same job opportunities and the same level of respect that any other person would receive (Salim 5). Black communities need investing and resourcing so that they are able to do for themselves (Salim 5). All they need to be able to flourish in the same way that white people do is equal opportunity. All the issues black people face are deeply rooted and of course, when Pepsi decided to minimize their issues, they received major backlash. Certain media outlets highlighted the stark imagery of Kendall Jenner handing a police officer a Pepsi and a photo taken of Ieshia Evans being handcuffed (Franklin). Ieshia Evans is a Black Lives Matter activist who was protesting the death of Alton Sterling (Franklin). This uncanny imagery is a vivid reminder of the inaccurate message that Pepsi is sending via this advertisement. This advertisement is especially unethical under a teleological lens since it tells the population that such severe issues have an easy fix. It also glorifies the fact that a white woman like Kendall Jenner has a great amount of agency and that is why she is capable of fearlessly walking up to a police officer.  Pepsi may have intended on raising awareness but it only resulted in people being even more aware of white people’s agency and less educated on the fact that black people have close to none.


A study suggests that people tend to ignore racism because it is such an uncomfortable subject for people to talk about but ignoring the problem surely does not solve it (Cross-Denny et al. 13). In fact, the author states that staying silent perpetuates racism even further.In that respect, Pepsi deserves a round of applause for having the courage to discuss such a relevant phenomenon, but what makes Pepsi knowledgeable enough on this topic to create an entire advertisement ad on the topic accurately? Furthermore, the author discusses white privilege, which white people often associate with guilt(Cross-Denny et al. 13) . However, she argues that instead of internalizing the privilege that a person is born with, to exercise it to the best of their abilities (Cross-Denny et al. 13). Without people using their privilege and acting as allies, society’s major accomplishments would have stayed a dream.The outcome of people using their privilege to be an ally has certainly resulted in amazing realities but when people take their privilege as if it is a right to speak on behalf of an entire group is when it does not work anymore,like what happened in the Pepsi ad. 


It is  incredible that an advertisement that ran for only twenty-four hours received so much backlash however, the political climate that the United States is in right now surely played a role in why citizens were so outraged. Now more than ever is the time for people to educate themselves on the severe racism and prejudice minority groups face daily. The one positive side to this advertisement is that it got people talking which is exactly what the american society needs if it wants to combat the especially hostile environment that minorities are living in.


Works Cited


“FULL HD Pepsi Ad Commercial with Kendall Jenner.” Youtube, uploaded by RollbizTV, 4 Apr. 2017,


Blalock, Meghan. “A Comprehensive look at Kendall Jenner’s entire Modelling Career.” Who What Wear, 16 Jul. 2014,


Cross-Deny, Brownyn., Betso, Ashleigh., Cusick, Emily., Doyle, Caitlyn., Marbot, Mikaela., Santos-Dempsy, Shauna. “Constructing a Deconstruction: Reflections on Dismantling Racism.” Reflections: Narratives of Professional Helping, no.3(21), 2015, pp.10-18. Ebsco,


Faraji, Salim. “Kendrick Lamar's Grammy Performance points to a Simple Truth, #Black Lives Matter When Africa Matters.” Journal of Pan African Studies, no.2(9), 2016, pp.3-6. Ebsco,


.Adedoja, Dorcas., Troka, Donna. “The Challenges of Teaching About the Black Lives Matter Movement: A Dialogue.” Radical Teacher, no. 106,2016, pp. 47-56. Ebsco,


Franklin, Lauren. “What were they Thinking? Kendall Jenner is accused of mocking Black Lives Matter movement in new Pepsi advert.” The Sun, 5 Apr. 2017,


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